For freedom, Christ has set us free

Sunday 14C19
Gospel Commentary
for smart phones and tablets

7 July 2019


Gospel
Luke 10:1   After this the Lord appointed seventy others and sent them on ahead of him in pairs to every town and place where he himself intended to go. 2 He said to them, “The harvest is plentiful, but the labourers are few; therefore ask the Lord of the harvest to send out labourers into his harvest. 3 Go on your way. See, I am sending you out like lambs into the midst of wolves. 4 Carry no purse, no bag, no sandals; and greet no one on the road. 5 Whatever house you enter, first say, ‘Peace to this house!’ 6 And if anyone is there who shares in peace, your peace will rest on that person; but if not, it will return to you. 7 Remain in the same house, eating and drinking whatever they provide, for the labourer deserves to be paid. Do not move about from house to house. 8 Whenever you enter a town and its people welcome you, eat what is set before you; 9 cure the sick who are there, and say to them, ‘The kingdom of God has come near to you.’ 10 But whenever you enter a town and they do not welcome you, go out into its streets and say, 11 ‘Even the dust of your town that clings to our feet, we wipe off in protest against you. Yet know this: the kingdom of God has come near.’ 12 I tell you, on that day it will be more tolerable for Sodom than for that town.

Luke 10:13   “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the deeds of power done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago, sitting in sackcloth and ashes. 14 But at the judgment it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 15 And you, Capernaum,
will you be exalted to heaven?
No, you will be brought down to Hades.

Luke 10:16   “Whoever listens to you listens to me, and whoever rejects you rejects me, and whoever rejects me rejects the one who sent me.”

Luke 10:17   The seventy returned with joy, saying, “Lord, in your name even the demons submit to us!” 18 He said to them, “I watched Satan fall from heaven like a flash of lightning. 19 See, I have given you authority to tread on snakes and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy; and nothing will hurt you. 20 Nevertheless, do not rejoice at this, that the spirits submit to you, but rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”

Initial observations

This passage has some similarities with Matthew (9:37-38; 10:7-16) and Mark (6:6b-13), but the story of the sending of the seventy is unique to Luke. Lk 10:13-16 is difficult, bringing an element of judgment to bear. Throughout, however, there are authentic marks of the proclamation, such as joy and peace.
It looks as if Luke has taken some traditional material (actually the sending out of the Twelve) and created this second, expanded missionary group in order to anticipate a similar pattern in the Acts of the Apostles. In the Acts, initially the Twelve are prominent but they soon give way to a second “generation” of missionaries, headed up by Paul, Barnabas and Silas. This second sending is then “anticipated” in the ministry of Jesus himself. It is instructive to remember that the seventy are mentioned nowhere else, not even in Luke again.

In any case, in Luke’s mind, there seems to be a double calling and a double sending:
Call of Jesus (4)
Call of the apostles (5)
Sending of the Twelve (9)
Sending of the Seventy(-two) (10)
The long version of the reading leaves out vv. 13-16, included here to complete the context.


Kind of writing
This scene sets the tone for the journey to Jerusalem motif. It seems to be in a “sandwich” form, that is, ABA*, encompassing much traditional material found elsewhere.
A: 10:1-3a Sending
B: 10:3b-16 Instructions
A*: 10:17-20 Return

Old Testament background

So Moses went out and told the people the words of the Lord; and he gathered seventy (MT; seventy-two in the LXX) elders of the people, and placed them all around the tent. Then the Lord came down in the cloud and spoke to him, and took some of the spirit that was on him and put it on the seventy elders; and when the spirit rested upon them, they prophesied. But they did not do so again.

Two men remained in the camp, one named Eldad, and the other named Medad, and the spirit rested on them; they were among those registered, but they had not gone out to the tent, and so they prophesied in the camp. And a young man ran and told Moses, “Eldad and Medad are prophesying in the camp.” And Joshua son of Nun, the assistant of Moses, one of his chosen men, said, “My lord Moses, stop them!” But Moses said to him, “Are you jealous for my sake? Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, and that the Lord would put his spirit on them!”
And Moses and the elders of Israel returned to the camp. (Numbers 11:24–30)

New Testament foreground

Then Jesus called the twelve together and gave them power and authority over all demons and to cure diseases, and he sent them out to proclaim the kingdom of God and to heal. He said to them, “Take nothing for your journey, no staff, nor bag, nor bread, nor money—not even an extra tunic. Whatever house you enter, stay there, and leave from there. Wherever they do not welcome you, as you are leaving that town shake the dust off your feet as a testimony against them.” They departed and went through the villages, bringing the good news and curing diseases everywhere. (Luke 9:1–6)

St Paul
But how are they to call on one in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in one of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone to proclaim him? And how are they to proclaim him unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news!” (Rom 10:14–15)

Brief commentary

Verse 1 After what? After rejection among the Samaritans and a failed calling. The number has symbolic overtones (70 or 72). They are sent ahead and without Jesus.
Verse 2 The motive for the second sending is the size of the harvest (an eschatological image found also in the OT for the gathering of Israel: see Isaiah 27:12). The word for “to send out” is strong: ekbale, whence ballistic, so quite forceful.
Verse 3 Wolves stand for danger—see Acts 20:28-31. Luke very likely changed “sheep” to “lambs” to accentuate vulnerability.
Verse 4 This instruction resembles the behaviour of the popular philosophers of the day, especially the Cynic movement. Cf. 9:3-4 above. Prohibiting greeting seems to be a prophetic gesture of urgency.
Verse 5 The traditional Hebrew greeting of shalom. It points to reciprocity. Cf. Acts 10:36.
Verse 6 Notice there is no condemnation: simply the lack of receptivity is noted. Lit. a “son of peace” = someone open to peace.
Verse 7 Beggars are not to be choosers, in other words. The temptation would be to upgrade to better quarters and better food. Cf. Didache 11:3–6 in the box. Reward: Mt 10:10; 1 Cor 9:14; 1 Tim 5:18.
Now concerning the apostles and prophets, deal with them as follows in accordance with the rule of the gospel. Let every apostle who comes to you be welcomed as if he were the Lord. But he is not to stay for more than one day, unless there is need, in which case he may stay another. But if he stays three days, he is a false prophet. And when the apostle leaves, he is to take nothing except bread until he finds his next night’s lodging. But if he asks for money, he is a false prophet. (Didache 11:3–6)
Verse 8 This feels like a second start of a doublet of the previous instruction.
Verse 9 The purpose of the healing miracles is to illustrate the kingdom. Later in Luke, healing precedes preaching: 13:10-17; 14:1-6; 17:11-19. The future kingdom of God is already breaking in in the ministry of Jesus.
Verse 10 A negative reception is also imagined, but this time in a tone of blame and warning.
Verse 11 Shaking the dust off signals they take nothing from those who reject them (see Lk 9:5 and Acts 13:51).
Verse 12 A fierce threat, given the reputation and destiny of these two cities. “In that day” is eschatological.

Verse 17 Joy is a mark of the kingdom especially in Luke (Luke 1:14; 2:10; 8:13; 10:17; 15:7, 10; 24:41, 52).
Verse 18 The victory over evil is also a mark of the Kingdom (4:2-13; 11:18; 13:16; 22:3, 31-32). From now on, Luke uses “Satan”. Lightning: cf. Is 14:15
Verse 19 Snakes and scorpions symbolise evil. Cf. Lk 11:11-12.
Verse 20 The true motive for joy lies not on apparent success but in the kingdom (see 12:33 and 18:22). The idea of a heavenly book is ancient.

Pointers for prayer

1. Jesus sent out his disciples on a mission to let people know “The kingdom of God has come near to you.” Recall when you have reached out to another in word or in deed to help them realise that they were cherished, perhaps by a word of sympathy or encouragement, or by giving a hand with a difficult task. What was it like for you to experience yourself as a person bringing help and encouragement to another?
2. Jesus sent the disciples out two by two. When have you found it beneficial not to be working alone, but with another by your side? How did companionship change the experience, or what you were able to achieve?
3. The instructions Jesus gave the disciples suggest appropriate attitudes for the one who ‘goes before Jesus’. Let the images speak to you and evoke memories of times when you were welcomed and times when you were not. When have you found that it was good news to have the attitudes Jesus describes?
4. When the disciples returned Jesus warned them not to focus on the thrill of what they had been able to achieve. It was more important that their “names are written in heaven”. Sometimes we also need reminders that who we are is more important than what we do. Who have been the people who brought this home to you? Have there been experiences that helped you to appreciate this?

Prayer

Most holy God, the earth is filled with your glory and in your presence angels stand in awe.

Enlarge our vision, that we may recognise your power at work in your Son and join the apostles and prophets as heralds of your saving word.

We ask this through your Son, Jesus Christ, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever.

Thought for the day

How to be an evangeliser today? The question is not limited to so-called “professionals,” but forms part of the role and identity of every believer. It is, of course, not easy. The “marks” of bearers of the Good News surely include the following. Firstly, an awareness of the hungers of the human heart, recognised or not. Secondly, in a metaphorical way, to travel light, with little attachment. Thirdly, to do so confidently but not overbearingly. Fourthly, to do so joyfully. Finally, in the time-honoured phrase, to have an account of hope you have in you (1 Pet 3:15), when the appropriate moment for words opens up.

Prayer

Help us, who have heard your Good News, to help others to be open to the Christ and his teaching, that people everywhere may know your salvation.